By: Spencer Webb | Category Manager

2020 was a challenging year for convenience stores. Driven by lockdown mandates, foodservice offering restrictions, and softness in trips, the convenience store trip experienced a drop-off as low as -35% over 2019.

While food, mass, and dollar retailers realized exponential growth due to panic buying and excessive pantry load, the decrease in convenience store shopping attributed to a shift in purchasing behavior within candy, gum, and mint (CMG) categories based on usage and need states.

Social distancing and working from home have significantly impacted gum and mint trends. Refreshment category usage saw declines as much as -50% in 2020 2. Single pack gum experienced the greatest decline, with a decrease of -44.9% in retail dollar sales during the stay-at-home mandates 2. With major companies announcing that employees can continue to work remotely, the softness in gum and mint is expected to continue.

While refreshment categories are experiencing softness, chocolate instant consumable sales have accelerated as consumers view king-size and single-serve chocolate offerings as permissible treats and a comfort selection during times of uncertainty. Chocolate king and single-serve accounts for 59% of instant consumable sales in the convenience channel 2. Retail dollar sales successfully rebounded in late 2020 and have exceeded pre-pandemic performance. Beyond consumer preference, many retailers have adopted everyday multiple pricing of 2-for-$4 and 2-for-$3 on king-size and single-serve, respectively, to entice larger baskets. On average, retailers who implemented everyday multiples in 2020 outpaced retailers who did not by 400-600 bps in unit conversion versus PY 2.  

With shoppers steadily returning to convenience stores in 2021, retailers seeking to convert more shoppers to buyers, increase basket rings, and improve profitable sales are optimizing their CMG assortments based on shopper preference. Chocolate is 137% more productive than gum singles in dollar sales per point of distribution 2. Expanding chocolate instant consumables while reducing gum single offerings will accelerate total category performance by offering convenience shoppers the products they seek. For further guidance on optimized product assortments, space allocation, and best-in-class merchandising strategies, reach out to your category management partner.          

Sources: PDI1, IRI2